Barriers to access naloxone in New Brunswick still exist, experts say

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Naloxone needed across New Brunswick, experts say
WATCH: With overdose incidents at an all-time high in Saint John, experts say there’s a strong enough supply of naloxone. But what about in rural areas of the province? Robert Lothian reports. – May 6, 2022

For the harm reduction program coordinator at Avenue B in Saint John, it feels like these days, nearly everyone is seeking training on naloxone kits.

“They come in, and they just do the 15-minute training, and we go over the kit with them and then they’re good to go,” said Diane Kerns.

In recent months, Avenue B has seen an increase in demand for the kits, but at this point, Kerns isn’t worried about supply.

Saint John police issued a warning Wednesday regarding an increase in overdoses through the first four months of 2022.

While access to naloxone — a fast-acting drug used to temporarily reverse the effects of opioid overdoses — remains fine in large markets, concerns are being raised about rural areas in the province.

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Memramcook-Tantramar MLA, and Green Party Health Critic Megan Mitton said the community of Sackville is one of the few rural areas fortunate enough to have adequate access to naloxone kits.

“Yes, there’s a lot of need in cities. There’s also need in rural areas, and there’s fewer resources. That’s why it needs to be really accessible,” Mitton said.

Mitton is proposing a model where kits are both available and free at pharmacies across the province.

“There really needs to be a lot more done. This is about saving people’s lives, and we can choose to save more people’s lives. It’s a choice at some point to not have stronger policies in place and not provide resources to communities,” Mitton said.

Barriers are also evident to Chris Hood, executive director of the Paramedic Association of New Brunswick.

“I think right now, the majority of pharmacies around the province are charging between $35 and $40 for a kit. And that obviously can impact people’s ability to access that medication, which is lifesaving,” said Hood.

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Though there was once believed to be a stigma around carrying a naloxone kit, more people have taken note of its importance.

Kerns at Avenue B said people often don’t realize the circumstances in which naloxone may be required do not only apply to situations involving drug addictions.

“The truth is it can be anybody. It could be grandma who took her medication that was legitimately prescribed; she forgot she took it and took it three times instead of once.”

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